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Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning - Roundtable Discussion

Interviews By Michael Bitton on January 26, 2012

EA recently invited us to take part in a roundtable discussion of sorts with some of the key players behind the development of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. If you’re unfamiliar with the game, Reckoning is a singleplayer RPG developed by Big Huge Games and there are a number of huge names attached to the IP and project, including Ken Rolston (of Elder Scrolls fame), R.A. Salvatore, and Todd McFarlane.

Why are we covering the game here at MMORPG.com? Well, for one, Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios is looking to create an MMO based on the Amalur setting and Reckoning will serve as many gamers’ first taste of what the IP is all about.

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In attendance during our call were Ken Rolston; Lead Designer, Tim Coman, Art Director; Michael Fridley, Executive Producer; and Grant Kirkhope, Audio Director.

Ken Rolston has a long history in the RPG genre and especially with Elder Scrolls where he served as lead designer on both Morrowind and Oblivion. Naturally, I decided to kick things off with a question most PC gamers who have enjoyed his previous projects are going to want to know: can you modify Reckoning? Would there be mod tools?

Sadly, at launch, it doesn’t look like players will be able to modify the game, though Michael Fridley did note that the team is investigating providing some level of tools post-launch so that players can mess around with it. However, if you’re looking forward to tools on the level of Bethesda’s ‘Creation Kit,’ you might want to curb your expectations.

Continuing along the line of Elder Scrolls comparisons, we learned that NPCs in the game won’t really acknowledge your race, but some may know about and reference things you’ve done in the game.

One Elder Scrolls staple that will in fact appear in Reckoning are the beloved side factions. We weren’t given any real details on the sort of factions players can expect to run into, but all that lovely side faction content will be available, and no, you won’t have to pick one and stick with it.

Speaking of having to stick with things – Ken noted that when he was a younger designer he thought being locked out of certain content depending on the choices you made in a game was actually a good idea, but he has come to learn that it’s better to let players experience all the content a game has to offer. This is reflected in the design of Reckoning, as players will not be locked out of any of the game’s content based on any decisions or actions they take. If you want to do every side faction and side quest in the game with a single character, go for it! The order doesn’t matter much, either. While you’ll have a bit more obvious guidance towards the main quest in Reckoning, you can pretty much ignore it completely and do what you like. And from the sounds of it, there will be quite a bit of content to do outside of the main quest. We were told that it took around 200 hours for their QA team (who knew where everything was) to go through all the game’s content.  

According to the team, what really sets apart Reckoning from its contemporaries is the game’s emphasis on providing a solid combat system, something they agree was lacking in most RPGs.  Ken used the example involving the four pillars of an RPG: story, combat, exploration, and achievement. According to Ken, Blizzard does the advancement and achievement stuff really well, the Elder Scrolls series are great at exploration, and some of their colleagues do a pretty good job with story. Ken feels that despite all the amazing things done with the RPG genre over the years, combat has sort of lagged behind. While Reckoning will feature all the typical RPG trappings of loot, leveling, and skill progression, the actual moment to moment combat is said to be a lot more action packed, tactical, and less clunky than your typical RPG combat experience.  For example, players will be able to combo attacks and even weave magic in between weapon combos. Reckoning’s Destiny system allows for ultimate flexibility between the game’s three trees of Finesse, Might, and Sorcery, and going down a hybrid of the three will be a completely viable option. If for whatever reason you’re unhappy with the choices you’ve made, you’ll even be able to respec your character for a nominal fee of gold.

At times our discussion veered off into the philosophical. I pointed out the lack of jump in the demo I recently played, and this really got the team chatting. It turns out the lack of jump was a deliberate decision and not due to a technical hurdle. Allowing players to jump affects the way world designers need to craft the world, and the team at Big Huge Games felt that they would be better able to create an interesting game world by leaving jumping out. We were told that if you can see something interesting in the game, you’ll likely be able to get to it. Ken, who was strongly against the inclusion of a jump feature, felt that jumping was better reserved for games that offered less guidance. If you don’t know where the cool stuff is, if you can’t see it, then you may need jump to explore the world and find these things, but the team behind Reckoning endeavored to make the more interesting areas of exploration a bit more obvious, making jumping unnecessary.  It’s important to note that there isn’t full consensus on this with the team behind the game, just as there isn’t with gamers who have played the demo, and they are paying close attention to what you guys are saying about this particular issue.

Finally, for those of you wondering about the MMO, we weren’t able to  find out much, but we were assured that the events of Reckoning would be consistent with the 10,000 years of backstory R.A. Salvatore has put together for the IP, so any future projects based on Amalur would make sense against what players are experiencing in Reckoning.

Reckoning will be available for $59.99 on the PC, PS3, and XBOX 360 beginning February 7.

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